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(en) The Utopian #2 - THESES ON The New Intifada CHRISTOPHERZ. HOBSON

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://www.utopianmag.com/)
Date Sun, 13 Oct 2002 03:16:27 -0400 (EDT)


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This special section includes responses to
the September 11, 2001 events written
in their immediate aftermath, with a
brief update (November 30), as well as
the poem "September 1, 1939," by W. H.
Auden, widely circulated in the weeks
since the attacks.--Editors


Theses, October 2000, and Discussion

These "theses" were written in October, 2000, shortly after
the beginning of the new Palestinian uprising, or Intifada,
and were posted on The Utopian website. Along with the
theses, we are reprinting a comment by Wayne Price and my
response, which were also posted on the site.

Since the theses were written, a good deal has changed.
Hundreds more have died. The Barak government in Israel
was voted out and a coalition headed by Ariel Sharon took
office--strengthening what I see as Sharon's strategy of
blocking agreement on the establishment of a truncated
Palestinian state. The Bush Administration in the U.S.
backed Israeli positions somewhat more than the Clinton
Administration did. Sharon engaged in  a new policy of
trickery--demanding a complete stop to any armed
Palestinian action or even stone-throwing before negotiat-
ing. More dangerously, he launched a policy of assassinating
Palestinian militants and invading Palestinian areas to
destroy specific targets. So far he has withdrawn after a lim-
ited time but the raids serve to warn that he might try
longer-term occupations or permanent conquest in the
future. These aggressive trends intensified after September
11. So while in the introduction to the original Theses I
could write that it wasn't yet clear whether or not the new
fighting would lead back to more negotiations, now not only
do serious negotiations seem remote, but it is clear that the
Israeli side has not yet accepted the fundamental right of the
Palestinians to a territory of their own (see Thesis 9).

Despite these new developments, as I read over the theses I
believe they are well worth reprinting because the issues they
raise--both the basic questions in Palestine and the areas in
which Wayne and I disagree--have not changed. On the for-
mer point, despite nearly a year of fairly continuous fighting,
the focus of the struggle around independence in part of
Palestine (that is, the two-state position) is even firmer. No
major forces in Palestine are seriously talking about the old
goal of destroying Israel; militants and even Islamicists are
talking about how to force Israel agree to Palestinian inde-
pendence alongside Israel. So the major issues remain for
discussion. Only Thesis 11, on the "waning" of U.S. domi-
nance, unfortunately seems way overblown.
As to the divergence between me and Wayne, those who pub-
lish The Utopian have agreed for many years that one should
support national liberation struggles while not politically sup-
porting the parties and personalities leading the struggles.
Though some anarchists would disagree, there's no difference
between Wayne and me on this point. However, he has criti-
cisms of what I wrote, as I do of his comments. Rather than
characterizing the disagreements here I'll just say that the
issues don't seem to have been altered by the passage of time,
so the exchange is still worth reading.
On one point, Thesis 12, no one has commented at all, and
this is unfortunate. Very many young people--I believe,
observing and talking to them--don't want a world of hate
and violence. This attitude can lead to strongly held feelings
that Palestinians and Israelis are equally at fault. I disagree
with this view but it's true that war and violence, even vio-
lence against injustice, are not the way we want to organize
the world. We need to be sure we see violence, when we do
approve of it, as an evil necessity--that we don't believe in the
morally cleansing nature of violence, a twentieth-century
myth. If resistance to injustice, including violent resistance,
are necessary, peace and tolerance--with justice--are also
positive values. I hope these thoughts don't seem like empty
cliches. We have to address people's correct and passionate
belief in peace in all that we do or say about Palestine and
other issues.
--Christopher Z. Hobson

Theses on the New Intifada (October 2000)
By CHRISTOPHER Z. HOBSON
Introduction: Since September 28 [2000] a second
"Intifada," or Palestinian rebellion, has been going on in
the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory and to some
extent in Israel itself, among Israeli Palestinians. More
than ninety Palestinians have laid down their lives in
struggle against Israeli troops, or simply have been shot
by them, like the twelve-year-old boy, Muhammad al-
Durra, who was gunned down as his father desperately
shouted for the Israelis to hold their fire. These events
have captured the world's attention. The brutal murder of
a little boy, captured on television, has caused horror and
revulsion among people who have not paid much atten-
tion to the ongoing Palestinian struggles. Like many
other people, I have watched these images and thought
much about where the new Intifada is going and what its
occurrence means for the power of U.S. imperialism,
which has seemed unassailable since the old Soviet system
fell apart in 1989-91. The theses that follow represent my
own point of view, though they result from some limited
consultation among people working on The Utopian. Like
all political "theses," they try to state conclusions in a
complicated political situation rather than to offer a full
argument for the conclusions. I and The Utopian staff
invite visitors to this site to comment on or criticize them.
It is possible that the new Intifada will turn out to be
another episode of fighting that brings Palestinians and
Israelis back to negotiations; or it may lead to a struggle
without negotiations. Either way, the collapse of the peace
negotiations (at least temporarily) and the return of
struggle in the street seems to have put all the basic ques-
tions on the table again--hence this effort to state some
overall views.

1. In the event of war between Israel, Palestine, and/or any
combination of Arab nations over the issue of Palestine, I
believe we should urge all people to support Palestine.

2. I for one believe it is unfortunate that the "peace
process" fell apart. Despite its weaknesses and the illegiti-
mate role played by the U.S. and the Israeli government in
limiting Palestinian rights, the first Intifada and the years
of back-and-forth negotiations it led to prompted a slow
shift in world opinion to recognizing the justice of the
Palestinian cause and the moral right of Palestinians to
live in their own state. In my view the overall blame for
the collapse lies squarely on Israel and its partner, the U.S.,
for consistently stalling and working to minimize any con-
cessions to legitimate Palestinian rights. And the blame for
the current struggle in my view is divided between the
Israeli right with its leader, Ariel Sharon, who staged his
"visit" to a joint Muslim-Jewish holy site as a provocation
to derail the peace talks, and the gutless Barak government
and the majority of Israeli Jews, who failed to stand up to
Sharon and the right.

3. In the present confrontations between the Israeli gov-
ernment and many Jewish Israelis on one side, and
Palestinians in the occupied territories and Israel on the
other, Palestinians are in general fighting for the just goals
of Palestinian self-determination and independence as well
as Palestinian equality within Israel. As I see it, the
Palestinians are doing no more than defending their rights
and existence, in the face of an Israeli government that
even today--thirteen years after the original Intifada start-
ing in 1987--claims the unilateral "right" to decide
whether or not there will be an independent Palestine and
where its capital shall be. On their side there is no doubt
many Israelis are terrified, but in large part theirs is the
terror of the powerful who legitimately fear the violence of
the less powerful. Their efforts to deny Palestinian outrage,
to distort the uprising into a mere tactic by Arafat, and even
to justify killing teenagers by blaming the teenagers for fight-
ing betray their own bad consciences. The brutal fact is that
Israeli soldiers and mobs have killed more than ten times as
many Palestinians (in Palestine and Israel) as Palestinians
have killed Jewish Israelis. Even mob executions like the
Palestinian killing of two Israeli army reservists are moments
of uncontrolled fury in a struggle by poorly armed
oppressed people to fight back against superior force.
4. The rights of Palestinians to have their capital in
Palestinian Jerusalem and to exercise Palestinian sover-
eignty over Palestinian parts of Jerusalem are part and par-
cel of the right of self-determination. The Israeli govern-
ment has no right to a veto in this matter.

5. Anarchists' ultimate goal in Palestine (as elsewhere)
should be a society of equal rights for all peoples and reli-
gions, without a state. But in my view such a society can-
not be called into being by wishing for it or by refusing to
work with others who are struggling for their own demo-
cratic goals. The struggle for Palestinian independence is
an unavoidable step on the road to a future in which
Palestinians and Jewish Israelis can live peacefully together,
either in one society or two. Concretely this is going to
mean a Palestinian state.

6. Supporting Palestinian independence does not mean sup-
porting any particular form of government or supporting
the Arafat (or any other) leadership. As I see it, we support a
Palestinian state simply as part of the Palestinian people's
just demands. We are free to attack any particular policy of
a Palestinian government or the government as a whole.
Any time we support other people's demands we do so from
our own independent perspective.

7. In two articles in The Torch/La Antorcha, newspaper of
the Revolutionary Socialist League, in 1989, I argued that a
"two-state" policy--Palestine alongside Israel--was the
best short-term goal on the way to a secular, inclusive
Palestine. I continue to believe this, even though it
involves some real compromises. Zionists settled in
Palestine from the 1880s to 1948 with the aim of creating
an exclusively Jewish state, and forced tens of thousands of
Palestinians from their homes to do so. These facts make a
struggle for a single Palestine--expelling the present
Israeli state from Palestine--a just fight. Nevertheless this
would be, even if successful, a long and horribly bloody
conflict that would leave another dispossessed nation in
the world. In my eyes a Palestinian and Israeli compro-
mise, accepting an independent Palestine in part of
Palestine and leaving an Israeli state in the rest, is a better
way to move toward peace between the two peoples. A
"two-state" policy is not in any way an overall long-term
solution. The resulting Palestinian state would be weak,
dependent on outside aid, and economically and militarily
dominated by Israel. However, semi-peaceful relations
between two entities, with cultural, political, and econom-
ic contacts across the borders, are at least no worse than
decades of war as a basis for struggling for a future single,
nonreligious Palestinian society.

8. In the same articles I argued, and I continue to believe,
that even though Israel's creation resulted from unjust
aggression, the present-day Israeli people have a right to
live in Palestine, and to have a state of their own; but only
if they accept the right of Palestinians to independence
and settle all relations between the two peoples on a basis
of equality. In my perspective, anarchists should not favor
an Israeli Jewish state but should recognize that nearly all
Israeli Jews do favor it. Therefore accepance of such an
Israeli state is part of the compromises making peaceful
relations possible, provided that the acceptance goes both
ways, i.e., also from Israel to an independent Palestine.
9. I believe the responsibility for making a "two-state"
solution possible--and ultimately making peace between
the peoples possible--now rests squarely with Israel's gov-
ernment and its Jewish people. Most Palestinians in the
occupied territories and in Israel have long since accepted
this policy. But time and again, the Israeli government,
backed by the U.S., has balked at taking the reciprocal
step. The responsibility is with Israelis to accept
Palestinians' right to independence. If they do not, strug-
gle by any and all means for Palestinian independence
either within the West Bank and Gaza or in Palestine as a
whole (i.e., the destruction of the Israeli state) is justified.
10. While supporting the Palestinian struggle as a whole, I
believe anarchists and democrats should condemn the few
instances of destruction of Jewish religious sites by
Palestinians. Palestinians should distinguish between Jewish
religious sites and sites and agents of Israeli state oppres-
sion, even if some Israeli citizens and officials negate the
distinction by using religious sites for provocations and
attacks. Provocations and attacks should be answered; reli-
gious sites should be respected. Though this principle may
at times be difficult to apply in practice, the principle is
valid, and, I believe, largely accepted by Palestinians.
11. Despite the real danger of war and/or another pro-
tracted period of killing, I welcome the failure of U.S.
efforts to impose its own version of a Palestinian settle-
ment on Palestine and the resumption of direct struggle
by the Palestinian people to determine their future. It is
the right of Palestinians to make use of U.S. or any other
mediation or pressure to move closer to self-determina-
tion. Nonetheless, such mediation reflected and reinforced
the U.S. position as the world's imperialist master. Events
as diverse as the antiglobalization protests, the revolution
in Yugoslavia (against a U.S. enemy but led by a critic of
the U.S.), and the mass gas price protests in Europe show
that this stranglehold may be weakening. The failure of
U.S. settlement efforts reflects the waning ability of U.S.
imperialism to dictate to the world's people, increases
oppressed people's ability to struggle for justice, and is a
sign of hope in the current world situation.

12. "Why," my young friend said, "does everyone hate so
much? It seems there is no limit to hate." That is a real
truth. But the absence of hate has to be based on social
justice. In fact, absence of justice creates hate: defensive,
repressive hate on the part of the oppressors and benefici-
aries of oppression (in this case the Israeli right wing and
much of the Israeli public), and rebellious hate on the part
of the oppressed. However much hate they may show and
however unjustified some specific action may be, the
Palestinians have right on their side; Sharon, Barak, and
the majority of Israeli Jews who are now self-righteously
judging whether they have "partners for peace" (for the
continuation of their power) are wrong. I continue to
favor a compromise based on social justice, if the Israelis can
wake up and accept it; but the fight for justice is fundamen-
tal. Forward through social justice to a world without hate.

Further Comment on the New Intifada

By WAYNE PRICE

I agree with almost everything Chris writes but I think
something more needs to be said, which he may or may
not agree with.

The current rebellion by the Palestinians and the repres-
sive reaction of the Israelis demonstrates something
important. There is a great need for a revolutionary social-
ist-anarchist movement in the Middle East. When I say
"movement," I am including the need for an anarchist
organization to spread anti-authoritarian ideas.

The dominant ideas of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, on
both sides, are nationalist. By "nationalism" I do not mean
a feeling of place and a respect for one's people, its tradi-
tions, the democratic and rebellious aspects of its history,
or its contributions to world culture. Both the Jews and
the Palestinian Arabs have much to be proud of in their
histories. This is a sense of "nationality," which I am dis-
tinguishing from the program of "nationalism." (This may
seem arbitrary, but the terms do not matter; it is the con-
cepts which are important.)

By "nationalism," I mean thinking in bloc concepts: the

Jews versus the Arabs. If one is Jewish, then you think of
all Jews as the Good Guys to be supported against the
faceless wall of Arab opposition, which is regarded as con-
tinuing, in a straight line, the world's anti-Semitism,
including the Nazis'. If one is a Palestinian Arab, you see
all the Jews as a faceless unity, the "Zionist entity," while
wishing all the Arabs to be a united enemy of the Israelis.
Such bloc thinking is very useful for authoritarian leaders.
The people identify with the leader and are urged to rally
around. Arafat, despite his disastrous policies, is still
respected by many Palestinians because he is, after all,
"their" leader. Israelis are urged to form a national govern-
ment of unity, bringing into the government the very peo-
ple who precipitated the current conflict. Nationalist
thinking justifies the state. People feel they need the
national state to protect "us" against "them." Meanwhile
the ruling elite in each nation uses the state to oppress the
majority of each nation.

The problem with nationalism is that it papers over the
very real splits and conflicts within each bloc.
Revolutionary anarchists wish to make these conflicts clear
to all. Within Israel, these include the conflict between the
workers and the capitalists, the secularists and the
Orthodox, male chauvinists and women, war hawks and
peaceniks, European Jews and Arabic Jews (Sephardim)--
as well as Russian Jews and African Jews, and all the Israeli
Jews versus the Israeli Arabs.

Among the Arabs, there are the conflicts between the
Palestinians and the various other Arab nations and their
governments (Palestinians having taken part in internal
wars inside Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, and elsewhere, as
they have been sold out repeatedly by their "brother
Arab" rulers). There are the various Palestinian parties,
which have at times fought it out; the parties represent
various views: secularist, theocratic-Islamicist, capitalist
democratic, nationalist socialist, nationalist Marxist.
There are differences between the Palestinians who stayed
within Israel, the Palestinians in the Occupied
Territories, and the Palestinians outside of Israeli con-
trolled land. Most importantly, from our point of view,
are the conflicting interests of the mass of Palestinians
and the capitalists, the landlords, the police, and the
bureaucrats, represented by the PLO's politicians. Arafat
has set up a de facto new state, with all the trappings of
power and corruption, lacking minimal democratic
rights. Meanwhile the workers and peasants, the refugees
and small merchants, have gotten virtually nothing.

It is in the interests of the working people, the poor and
oppressed, on both sides to get rid of the politicians and
capitalists who rule them. This is true for the Palestinians,
whose leadership has given them seven years of negotiations
which have won virtually nothing in permanent gains. This
is also true for the Israelis, whose Zionist rulers have led
their people into a dead end, alienated from the people of
their region, unable to "win" safety by some final war but
unwilling to negotiate a lasting peace.

While opposing all the states and statisms of the Middle
East, anarchists should participate in the struggles of the
oppressed and support their democratic demands. Right
now the vast majority of the Palestinians accept a two-state
solution. Anarchists should defend their right to win this
demand, because we believe in democracy and self-determi-
nation. But we should not cease to point out the limitations
of any form of states and of any sort of capitalist arrange-
ment. We advocate a federation of nonstate self-governing
socialist communities throughout the Middle East, with
mutual recognition of the rights of all national communi-
ties.

Similarly we should criticize the Oslo treaty, agreeing with
people like Edward Said and Hanan Ashrawi that the specific
treaty was a sell-out. But we support the right of the
Palestinians and their representatives to make treaties with
the Israelis, and the need for some sort of compromise if
there is ever to be real peace. So long as the treaty was in
place and the majority of Palestinians seemed to accept it,
anarchists should not have tried to overthrow it (which
would have meant an alliance with Hamas). There are alter-
natives to either armed uprisings or passive acceptance of
whatever the bosses negotiate. These include mass organiz-
ing and education (which has been done but only by secular
nationalists and by Hamas), demonstrations, rallies, strikes,
active alliances with peace-minded Jews, nonviolent resist-
ance campaigns, among other possibilities.
There will be future ups and downs in the Middle East, with
further rebellions, military conflict, and periods of negotia-
tion. What the latest uprising reminds us is that neither
peace nor liberation will be achieved by deals brokered by
bourgeois politicians. Peace and freedom require continued
popular struggle from below.

Reply

By CHRISTOPHER Z. HOBSON

Wayne, like me, is trying to think through a complex situa-
tion; neither of us has all the answers. Let me first state
what I know Wayne and I agree on: being an anarchist, and
therefore against the state as an institution, does not mean
one can't be for national independence (which means cre-
ation of a new state) in some circumstances. We can work
for our goal of a stateless world and still be for various
interim goals, if they are genuine steps forward and if we
tell the truth about their dangers. This attitude separates
Wayne and me from some in the anarchist tradition. But
though we agree on this, it appears that Wayne and I may
have real differences, which I will try to state as clearly as I
can.

(1) I myself support a two-state policy (it is not a solution)
as the best partial step forward in the present circum-
stances, and as providing a better basis than unending war
on which to work for a future stateless, secular Palestinian
society (my theses 7, 8, and 9). Wayne appears to support
this only as a concession to Palestinians' limited concep-
tions. He states, "Right now the vast majority of the
Palestinians accept a two state solution. Anarchists should
defend their right to win this demand, because we believe in
democracy and self-determination." This seems to mean
Wayne does not think an independent Palestine alongside
Israel is a good step forward in the present situation, but
perhaps he hasn't formulated clearly. I would like to know
whether Wayne agrees with my view or whether he would
prefer that there be no peace agreement and no creation of
a truncated independent Palestine while anarchists slowly
persuade everyone to favor a stateless secular federation.

(2) Wayne and I also appear to have differences about how
we evaluate Palestinian nationalism. Wayne uses symmet-
rical formulas to show that all nationalisms are equally
bad: "If one is Jewish, then you think.... If one is a
Palestinian Arab, you see..." (paragraph 4); "Within Israel,
[there is a] conflict between.... Among Arabs, there are
conflicts between..." (paragraphs 5-6); "This is true for
the Palestinians.... This is also true for the Israelis..."
(paragraph 7), etc. Wayne seems unwilling to agree that
there are differences in character between Zionism, Israeli
nationalism, and Palestinian nationalism. In my opinion,
Zionism, the ideology that supports a religiously-ethnical-
ly based Jewish state in all of Palestine, is what got us into
this mess. Zionism taught its believers that they were right
to steal the land, expel its inhabitants, treat those who
remained as third-class citizens, and, today, balk at allow-
ing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Israeli nationalism,
in the context of Israeli politics, is a more liberal trend that
believes territory, not ethnicity and religion, should be the
basis for citizenship; therefore it advocates a non-Jewish
Israeli state with equality for Palestinian Israelis, and is at
least more open to the idea of a Palestinian state. Palestinian
nationalism, finally, contains a core of struggle against Israeli
oppression and for self-government, a positive goal. I believe
we should support and identify with this struggle, but still
keep the goal of a secular, stateless Palestine. Overall, I
believe I may see the struggle for an independent Palestine as
more positive than Wayne does. If you say an independent
Palestinian state will be authoritarian and repressive, I agree;
if you say this proves that independence is a meaningless
trap, I don't agree. It is an interim goal, not the final goal,
but it is worthwhile all the same.
(3) Wayne seems to me particularly off-base in seeing a rise
in "thinking in bloc concepts" by both Palestinians and
Israelis as the great danger today (paragraph 4). In reality,
most Palestinians have already taken the impressive political
step of accepting the Zionist conquest of half of Palestine as
an accomplished fact that they are prepared to live with, if
Israelis can reciprocate. I wish Wayne would understand that
this is an impressive step, instead of feeling impelled to warn
against "thinking in bloc concepts." At least until recently,
Palestinians did make the distinction between Israel and
Jewish people, and between the rights of Jewish people in
general, however reluctantly conceded, and the so-called
"right" of Jews to settle in Palestinian areas and take them
over for Israel. To illustrate this Palestinian attitude from
another angle, let me refer to a conversation among
Palestinian students some years ago that was reported recent-
ly in the New York Times. The Palestinians agreed generally
that they, not Jews, were native to Palestine and that "the Jews
don't belong here." But when asked if that meant the Jews
should leave, they said no: "Israelis don't have any other place
to go" (Oct. 15, 2000: 4:1). This was in 1993; recently there
has been a rise in outright anti-Semitism and this seems to be
the fruit of Israelis' stubborn refusal to recognize Palestinian
rights. Even so, it is notable that the demand Palestinian local
leaders threw back at Arafat after the summit [August 2000]
was for continuing the struggle for a state in the West Bank
and Gaza. "We will not stop it [the intifada] until there is
sovereignty and independence for the Palestinians...the only
solution to this conflict is an end to Israeli occupation of the
Palestinian people," says Marwan Barghouti, the anti-Arafat
West Bank leader of Fatah (New York Times, Oct. 17, 2000:
A19). Clearly he means independence in and for the
Territories. Even if this view is in part a concession to greater
power, I continue to be humbled by the political realism and
even the humanism with which Palestinians are ready to
accept Israel, if only Israel will take the equivalent step.
Similar attitudes are not unknown on the Israeli side, either.
But in its great majority, the Israeli side has yet to say,
"Palestinians don't have any other place to go." This is why I
feel it is inappropriate to lecture Israelis and Palestinians
equally on the need to avoid bloc thinking.


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